Jacob Lang

Hammer Museum
Los Angeles, CA

2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the UCLA Poetry Reading Series, sponsored by the U.C.L.A. Department of English and U.C.L.A.’s Friends of English.  The series, currently hosted at the Hammer Museum, has become the crown jewel of poetry readings on the West Coast, featuring a who’s who of award-winning poets, such as Gwendolyn Brooks, James Merrill, John Ashbery, Etheridge Knight, Louise Glück, Jorie Graham, Joy Harjo, W.S. Merwin, Seamus Heaney, Robert Pinsky, Charles Bernstein, Anne Carson, Sharon Olds, Alice Fulton, Terrance Hayes, David Lehman, Alice Oswald, Mark Strand, and A.E. Stallings, to name just a few.  Yet, despite its impressive history, the reading series remains relatively unknown outside of West LA’s literary community.  The goal of my internship at the Hammer Museum during the summer of 2018 was to share this reading series—both its history and ongoing events—with a larger audience.

To commemorate the semicentennial anniversary of the UCLA Poetry Reading Series, I worked with the Hammer Museum’s Public Engagement Department to develop two key projects—a website and podcast—in order to highlight available recordings from this series.  My efforts involved working with Claudia Bestor, Director of Public Programming at the Hammer, to inspect and assess the museum’s available archive and develop intros and outros for each available recording.  Building off the work conducted during my summer internship, a link to every available recording should be made available from the Hammer’s home website by the end of the year.

The podcasts I developed involve one host and two-three guests close reading and discussing a recording of one poem from the archive per podcast.  For each podcast, the single poem will be posted on the Hammer’s website at the beginning of each month.  By hosting a live discussion of the poem one week later, the podcast’s host and guests are able to integrate questions and comments accumulated throughout the week from listeners by way of email and social media.  In doing so, this often overlooked archive of invaluable poetry recordings will be made accessible not only to the public of Los Angeles, but audiences across the internet.

Curating this project has allowed me to develop my academic tools into a skill set that’s prepared me for alternative career opportunities, namely in the field of public programming at a museum, literary organization, or other cultural institution.  The editing, directing, media design, and public outreach experiences that I fostered during my summer internship are sure to enhance my ability to curate and promote art in the future.  Discovering strategies to adapt my academic experience to negotiate new tasks was a remarkably stimulating, instructive, and encouraging experience.